Lot Archive


№ 589


27 September 1994

Hammer Price:

An exceptional Korean War B.E.M. for distinguished conduct whilst a prisoner of war, awarded to Corporal F.R. Mathews, R.E.M.E., attached Glosters, who was captured at the battle of Imjin River

BRITISH EMPIRE MEDAL, E.lI.R. (Military) for Meritorious Service (22305928 Cpl., R.E.M.E.); WAR MEDAL; KOREA 1950 53 (22305928 Cfn., B.E.M., R.E.M.E.) minor official correction to unit on this; U.N. KOREA, good very fine (4)

B.E.M., London Gazette, 13 April 1954. 22305928 Corporal Robert Frank Mathews, R.E.M.E., attached The Gloucestershire Regiment. The following details were extracted from official records: 'Corporal Mathews was a young non-commissioned officer who first experienced both active service and the responsibilities of leadership in the field in Korea. After his capture at the battle of the Imjin River on 25th April, 1951, he proved his ability to lead to the hilt. Isolated from their officers, warrant officers and senior N.C.O's, the bulk of the rank and file held as prisoners by war by the Chinese force were subjected to insidious propaganda, calculated to break all normal ties of loyalty and patriotism; a propaganda all the more dangerous as it offered many material advantages in the way of food, medical attention and minor amenities to those who accepted it, at a time when all were weak or sickly from lack of these. With a small band of others, he formed an organisation which effectively countered this. His activities became known to his captors. Eventually he was arrested, manacled and placed in a very small cell, wherein he lay for many months, emerging only for interrogations of the most brutal kind. He was denied, until the Armistice was signed, even the common right to wash. His food was of the coarsest and poorest kind, totally insufficient to maintain health indefinitely. Throughout this period he showed the utmost fortitude and tenacity. Never once did he reveal the details or members of his organisation to the enemy. His example inspired others to resist; his loyalty and courage were in conformity with the highest traditions of the service.'

Nine B.E.M's were awarded to the Glosters, and those attached to the regiment, for their outstanding conduct whilst prisoners of the Chinese. The similar award to Private D.C. Richards was sold at Sorheby in November 1988.